Vrasubatlat Records: Pissing Blood For Fun

Influential French philosopher Michel Foucault once said that his role was to make windows where once there were walls. I’ve always thought that’s the job of great music, too. Admittedly, it’s a complicated task. Legions of unimaginative ass-hats litter today’s musical landscape; our favorite tropes are our favorites for good reason; and we’re not always looking for innovative groups to admire.

That said, most of us know the thrill of stumbling on a band that sounds like they’re punching a new hole in reality or wrenching open a hitherto unseen portal into the metaphysical realm. It doesn’t matter if that band is writing intricate suites or making an obnoxious fucking racket. Although, if you’re looking for harsh and heavy reprobates who sound like they’re tearing open nightmarish apertures (where once there were none), then I recommend paying a visit to the roster of Portland, Oregon-based label Vrasubatlat.

Vrasubatlat was founded in 2015, by Ash Borer bassist and vocalist R (aka Rory Flay), and the label is home to a number of like-minded groups that R also plays in: see Adzalaan, Dagger Lust, Triumvir Foul, Utzalu and more. The bands associated with Vrasubatlat primarily deal in subterranean squalor, mixing audio warfare with carnal pursuits, and backing it all with plenty of dramatic intensity. Death metal, black metal, grindcore, and power electronics all feature in Vrasubatlat’s armoury, and the label’s roster explores a seemingly neverending trough of often sadomasochistic sordidness with a fervency that exceeds mere pruriency or #edgy visualisations.

In fact, much of Vrasubatlat’s roster shares a corporeal curiosity that borders on obsessive. That’s a focus Foucault was certainly familiar with, and it’s an area that a band like San Francisco death metallers Vastum also explore. They’re all interested in our perverse primal impulses, not to mention the way socially constructed norms around sex and sin challenge and control us.

If that all sounds a bit highfalutin, think of it like this: If you want to eat someone’s ass, then eat their fucking ass with all the debased fucking gusto you can muster. Dig in. Get your tongue right in there. Revel in all that disgust and shame. And keep in mind that any band from Vrasubatlat’s rancid roster will help you soundtrack/hammer home the depravity.

Vrasubatlat’s roster also shares a common “consciousness” that explores dark veins of anxiety and melancholy, and that’s intertwined, both illustratively and narratively, across many of the label’s releases. That means a band like Adzalaan, who traverse bone-chilling terrain with their withering death and black metal, are unmistakably linked with a group like Dagger Lust, who wield black metal and power electronics to decimate notions of “purity and sexual sanctity”. Both bands transmit different messages in different ways, but both construct their esoteric and often existential messages from similarly corruptive elements.

(Admittedly, it’s not easy deciphering those messages, given they’re buried in pitch-black walls of noise. But like so much annihilating metal, there’s no mistaking the intent.)

Vrasubatlat is a cult underground label with an incredibly strong, distinct, and overarching aesthetic that’s drawn increasing amounts of attention of late. One reason for that is the critical success of Spiritual Bloodshed, the 2017 sophomore release from the death metal duo Triumvir Foul. Spiritual Bloodshed‘s success upped Triumvir Foul and Vrasubatlat’s profiles significantly last year, and the album’s revolting innards certainly deserved all the applause. Triumvir Foul broadened their primordial parameters on the album, injecting more degeneracy into their occultism, which resulted in a hedonistic horrorshow staged in an unsettling spectral sphere. Spiritual Bloodshed featured on many ‘best of’ lists in 2017, but it wasn’t my favorite release from Vrasubatlat’s sinister stable last year.

My favorite was a less well-known but no less formidable release: The Loins of Repentance, the debut from bleeding-raw black metal trio Utzalu. The band recently returned, wielding more corrosive and dissolute noise, so it seemed like the perfect time to dig into a couple of Vrasubatlat’s recent releases.

UTZALU — IDIOT HELL

On The Loins of Repentance, Utzalu combined “the visions” of French novelist and playwright Emile Zola with tales of “unhinged desires”. If that sounds like an obscure exercise, sidestepping black metal’s stock-standard Satanic shtick, it was. A number of Vrasubatlat’s releases blend audio primitivism with often esoteric intellectualism, and Utzalu certainly delivered an electrifying mix of the cerebral and the sordid on The Loins of Repentance.

The album fused the promised transcendence with self-destruction—“Hell is the carvings on her back, Heaven is your loins rotting in dirt”—and a sense of the divine pleasures of the immoral rested at the core of The Loins of Repentance. Even better, Utzalu’s raw and astringent music felt genuinely scornful, and even profane, and you didn’t need to unpack the entirety of the band’s lyrical thrust to appreciate their fondness for perversity and barbarity.

That’s because Utzalu simply sound and feel fucking filthy. The band’s latest album, Idiot Hell, showcases more vile spectacles, but I have to admit, given R’s prolific artistic output, I was concerned that Utzalu didn’t have another debased adventure in them so soon. More fool me, though. I forgot, for a second, that there are always more levels of depravity to be mined.

Idiot Hell strips Utzalu’s already skeletal black metal down to even rawer components, and there’s a clear injection of more punk-fueled riffs. R’s other projects have shown that he’s capable of writing complex songs where the creative rewards are linked to a strong sense of something profound lurking in the depths. But Utzalu’s feral noise (and primal punch) is the complete opposite of that.

Forget any abstract explorations, Idiot Hell is all front and fury with distorted riffs, vicious barks, and a driving momentum that claws at you relentlessly. Utzalu don’t seek to lure you into the shadows to whisper secrets in your ear –– they leap out at you from the dark, and kick you to death in the gutter. Tracks like “Wounded Spectra”, “Painted With Her Skull” and “Monument” are coarse and crude –– blitzkrieg blasts of sonic shrapnel –– so if you’re seeking elaborately constructed black metal, you best look elsewhere. However, if you’re a fan of lo-fi punk/metal bands like Bone Awl or ye olde venom-spitter Ildjarn, the instinctual appeal of Utzalu’s bare-boned ferocity is readily apparent.

Idiot Hell mixes noise punk’s abrasiveness with black metal’s savagery, delivering untamed havoc and plenty of ill-tempered hostility. The album reminds me a lot of Hate Invocation, the excellent (and ear-gouging) debut from punked-up black metal duo Ritual Knife, which was released by label Fallen Empire last year. It’s not too surprising to find that Ritual Knife’s drummer, L, also features on Idiot Hell, and Ritual Knife and Utzalu share an intuitive ability to make genuinely caustic music from the simplest formula.

Take driving drums, add a couple of raucous riffs, mix in some maniacal gashing, and that’s it. It’s a simple but effective recipe that delivers raw pandemonium for fans of the harshest punk and metal. It’s not for everyone, of course, but if nasty noise-fests do appeal, then I wholeheartedly encourage you to also check out Vrasubatlat band Pissblood.

PISSBLOOD — PISSBLOOD

I’ve pissed blood before. It wasn’t much fun. D-beat band Pissblood are a load of fun though. And by ‘fun’, I mean that they’re an obliterating mind-fuck. The band released their four-song debut, Fevered Dreams of Delirium, in late 2016, and it featured blown-out d-beat that was crude, brutal, and corrosive in equal measure. Lyrically, Pissblood explored the controversial themes (namely, “decadence and perversion”) of Italian writer and director Pier Paolo Pasolini. The band’s music churned and pulverized, with zero regard for diplomacy or delicacy, and the strident nature of Fevered Dreams of Delirium is what lay at the heart of its success.

Obviously, not everyone enjoys the dirty ol’ piss-streaked-jeans world of d-beat. Some people desire more sophisticated fare. And some seek far more stylistic diversity. That’s fair enough. D-beat is definitely primitive, unvarnished, and often dissonant—and Pissblood tick all of those boxes. The band’s latest release is also their full-length debut, and their eponymously titled album features another cacophonous vortex of audio mayhem.

Pissblood’s full-length debut also finds them incorporating more influences than before—albeit from a familial pool of inspirational sources. Crust punk, hardcore, råpunk, and a hefty dose of raw Japanese noise punk make an appearance. Although it’s arguable whether picking apart Pissblood’s sound really matters in the grand scheme.

D-beat’s an unapologetic and deliberately rough-hewn genre by default, and Pissblood duly offer an abrasive barrage of nihilistic noise. You can take it or leave it, Pissblood don’t care, and they don’t waste their time polishing notes or melodies for our comfort. If that kind of obstinance appeals, you’ll love the sordid splendor of “Smashed Knees”, “Chains”, and “Purged Blood”. Tracks like “Eliminated Life”, “Decimate/Crucify”, and “Acid Burn” are also boiling riots marked by chaotic punk hallmarks, but the echo of crust-caked death metal is also heard in the weight and tone of Pissblood’s guitars. Ultimately, that means the band’s frenzied music has crossover appeal for rivetheads as much as for fans of Japanese noise-shredders like Disclose, Kriegshög, Contrast Attitude and Framtid, or for fans of heavyweight punk bands like War//Plague, Aspects of War, and Napalm Raid.

Not that any of that would be of much concern to Pissblood. Making friends isn’t on their agenda, and Pissblood’s uncompromising nature is a common theme expressed by all of Vrasubatlat’s bands. I can’t peek into the mind of any musician from Vrasubatlat’s roster, but the label’s releases sound like they’re made by individuals only too willing to explore the most depraved and disgusting aspects of the human experience. It all comes back to making windows where once there were walls. Vrasubatlat’s roster broaches challenging topics and delivers demanding music –– music that’s hideous and savage, and could border on obscene for sensitive souls. Maybe those windows being opened reveal worlds you’d hesitate to occupy for any great length of time, but those unnerving scenes are all enticingly framed.

Music shouldn’t just satisfy our desires, it should also challenge and even confront us at times. Art should push boundaries, and in that sense Vrasubatlat’s roster has succeeded in making powerful and provoking art out of the very ugliest ingredients. I’m not saying the views that Vrasubatlat’s roster conjures are always pleasant. But they do lay the vice and corruption at the heart of humanity bare, in all its fucking glory.

Posted by Craig Hayes

New Zealand's most successfully unsuccessful music writer. Dadcrust for d-beat dorks, noise punk nerds, and metal dweebs.

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